Event Recap: McCrery-Pomeroy SSDI Solutions Initiative Recommendations Release

On Wednesday, April 6, the McCrery-Pomeroy SSDI Solutions Initiative released its final recommendations and book of policy proposals dedicated to improving the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. The book, SSDI Solutions: Ideas to Strengthen the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, represents the culmination of a nearly two-year effort to foster discussion on ways to improve the SSDI program for its beneficiaries as well as those who pay into the program and the economy as a whole.

A video of the event can be found below as well as a detailed recap:

The event started with remarks from project co-chairs and former congressmen Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and Jim McCrery (R-LA) discussing the top-level recommendations of the project. Although Reps. McCrery and Pomeroy did not specifically endorse any of the 12 proposals included in SSDI Solutions, they did emphasize that the ideas represented a broad swath of options from a diverse range of stakeholders interested in making improvements to a program struggling to keep up with increased enrollment and obsolete design. Ultimately, the co-chairs came up with three broad recommendations concentrating on starting to test programmatic changes now, increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the current program, and supporting work and improving the lives of people with disabilities. They also noted that while the original impetus for the initiative – the late-2016 projected depletion of the SSDI trust fund – had been addressed, these ideas should continue the conversation on how to make real changes for both SSDI's fiscal state and its strength as a program that helps people in need.

After Reps. McCrery and Pomeroy addressed questions from the audience, a keynote address was given by Dr. Henry Aaron, the current Chairman of the Social Security Advisory Board and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Speaking in his capacity as a prominent expert on Social Security, Dr. Aaron shared his insight on the deep dilemma faced specifically by SSDI due to its important and complex nature. He praised the initiative for its continued focus on desperately-needed change, and he touched on a few of the deeper issues within the program such as the sheer difficulty in determining eligibility, the problem of promoting work while having a "cash cliff" in receiving benefits, and reconciling the tension between how modern technology has improved the work capacity of individuals with disabilitites today versus the inadequate structure in place to measure work capacity.

The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion that featured Kathleen Romig of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Romina Boccia of the Heritage Foundation, Art Spencer of the Social Security Administration (retired), Jennifer Dexter of Easter Seals, and Marc Goldwein of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Moderated by Paul Krawzak of CQ Roll Call, the panel discussed the state of SSDI now that the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 fixed the short-term funding need with a reallocation of the payroll tax as well as the main challenges facing SSDI reform and prospects of making changes to the program, among other topics. Audience members were invited to ask questions to the panel, and they discussed a variety of issues in the SSDI conversation, including the idea of who early intervention demonstrations could target.

SSDI Solutions: Ideas to Strengthen the Social Security Disability Insurance is now available for purchase on Amazon.com, and the proposals can be accessed via the SSDI Solutions website: https://www.ssdisolutions.org/book. Moderator Paul Krawzak also wrote an article about the event in CQ Roll Call, available here (Paywall).

Further reading from the event's speakers: